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The Limits of Understanding

Friday, June 4, 2010
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

This statement is false. Think about it, and it makes your head hurt. If it’s true, it’s false. If it’s false, it’s true. In 1931, Austrian logician Kurt Gödel shocked the worlds of mathematics and philosophy by establishing that such statements are far more than a quirky turn of language: he showed that there are mathematical truths which simply can’t be proven. In the decades since, thinkers have taken the brilliant Gödel’s result in a variety of directions–linking it to limits of human comprehension and the quest to recreate human thinking on a computer. This program explores Gödel’s discovery and examines the wider implications of his revolutionary finding. Participants include mathematician Gregory Chaitin, author Rebecca Goldstein, astrophysicist Mario Livio and artificial intelligence expert Marvin Minsky.

This program is part of The Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

Moderator

Paul NurseGeneticist

Paul Nurse is a geneticist and cell biologist who has worked on how the eukaryotic cell cycle is controlled and how cell shape and cell dimensions are determined. His major work has been on the cyclin dependent protein kinases and how they regulate cell reproduction.

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Participants

Gregory ChaitinMathematician

Gregory Chaitin is a mathematician and computer scientist who began making lasting contributions to his field while still a student at the Bronx High School of Science. His approach to mathematics views the field as much as an art form as science and inextricably linked with philosophical questions.

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Mario LivioAstrophysicist, Author

Dr. Mario Livio is an astrophysicist, a best-selling author, and a popular speaker. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has published more than 400 scientific papers on topics ranging from Dark Energy and cosmology to black holes and extrasolar planets.

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Marvin MinskyCognitive Scientist

Marvin Minsky is one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence and had made numerous contributions to the fields of AI, cognitive science, mathematics and robotics. His current work focuses on trying to imbue machines with a capacity for common sense.

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Rebecca Newberger GoldsteinNovelist, Philosopher

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Orthodox Jewish background and advanced studies in philosophy came together in an original writing style for which she has been widely recognized.

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